Barrister and judge comments probed
A barrister and judge will be subject to separate inquiries after it emerged a 13-year-old sex attack victim was labelled "predatory" and "sexually experienced".
Robert Colover made the comments as prosecutor in the case of 41-year-old paedophile Neil Wilson - who ultimately walked from court with an eight-month suspended sentence after admitting that he had engaged in sexual activity with the girl at his home. Judge Nigel Peters QC said he took into account that the girl looked and behaved older than she was when he decided Wilson's punishment.
Mr Colover has been suspended from prosecuting sexual offence cases while his conduct is reviewed by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), while Judge Peters' remarks are to be investigated by the Office for Judicial Complaints.
Prime Minister David Cameron said the CPS was "absolutely right" to label Mr Colover's comments as inappropriate. "It isn't appropriate. We need a criminal justice system that stands up properly for victims," he said.
Mr Colover, a self-employed barrister, told a hearing at London's Snaresbrook Crown Court on Monday: "The girl is predatory in all her actions and she is sexually experienced."
Wilson, 41, now faces having his sentence reviewed after Attorney General Dominic Grieve agreed to examine the case. As well as receiving a number of complaints, from both individuals and an organisation, the CPS was confronted by a petition, with 15,000 signatures and counting, demanding Mr Starmer investigate the language used by Mr Colover.
A CPS spokesman said Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Keir Starmer will be undertaking a review of the case to determine what happened and to decide what action needs to be taken. He added: "We are now considering the involvement of this barrister in sexual offence prosecutions and have advised his chambers that we will not instruct him in any ongoing or future cases involving sexual offences in the meantime."
The CPS added: "The word predatory in this context should not have been used and is of real concern to the CPS. It is not consistent with the work that we have undertaken alongside the judiciary and others in the past year to improve attitudes towards victims of abuse. We expect all of our prosecutors, including self-employed barristers who act on our behalf, to follow our guidance in these very difficult cases."
Police also found images of child abuse and bestiality at Wilson's home in Romford, Essex. Wilson, now living in York, admitted two counts of making extreme pornographic images and one count of sexual activity with a child.
The Office for Judicial Complaints confirmed it had received a number of complaints about the remarks made by Judge Peters during Wilson's sentencing and they would be considered. Independent charity Victim Support, which has been working with the Government, the CPS and others to try to change attitudes to the way victims and witnesses are handled in the criminal justice system, condemned the teenager's treatment. Chief executive Javed Khan said: "Victims of sexual abuse should be praised for their bravery in coming forward, not censured and have their credibility called into question - least of all by the prosecution."